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Diversity is the key to your product team's success

Product development is a team's sport. So as product management. Rarely something remarkable is achieved by a single individual. And even when that happens - a lone genius still needs help to grow, support and improve their product.

Product management teams come in many shapes and sizes. Yet there is one key characteristic that differentiates good and great product teams. This key is diversity.

Every person is different from another, that's a given. In product management, if you can compose a team where every team member is different is the right way - you're substantially increasing your chances for success.

Experience/background diversity

You want every person on your team to enrich the group with their unique experience. Even when people's experiences seem irrelevant - a good product team finds ways to integrate it and extract value out of it. Folks without experience are also valuable to a product team. They keep more experienced members in check, helping them to reason and communicate clearly.

Cultural diversity

Majority of modern products are aspiring to be global. All the most successful products on the market today are used all around the globe. To create such products you need a culturally diverse team. Even if a problem is global - the solution might need to be local. Having a rich set of cultural backgrounds on your team gives you a massive advantage.

Interests diversity

You never know where your next great product idea comes from. It could be a work-related conference or a weekend art museum tour. When people on your team have a broad set of interests - your collective chances to come up with great ideas increase.

How do you assemble and empower a diverse team

Hiring is crucial. doh. High performing, successful product teams created by careful design and selection. While recruiting you need to be open and upfront about the team you aim to create. You need to describe your principals and values, such as diversity. On interviews, you need to prioritize getting to know candidates as personalities not just as skill sets.
For example:
On an interview, you ask about candidate's academic and professional achievements - but do you ask about their experiences outside work? How do they learn? What inspires them? What do they read, listen or watch?
Surely, some people like to have a strict divide between their professional and personal selves. Still, there is a strong case that in creative professions, and product management is definitely creative, your personal interests might have a major influence on your output at work.

When you have the right people on board you need to focus on building the proper environment for them to exchange their experiences and learn from each other. Communication is the cornerstone of any cooperation, especially in a product team.

Make time to talk

As a PM, sometimes, all you do is talking. However, quite often the talking is operational. It's about issues at hand, burning topics, escalations. Rarely we take time to reflect on the past and speculate about the future. High performing product teams dedicate time to discussing strategic topics, making useful retrospectives and sharing experiences.

Write more, read more

Probably the second most popular activity of a PM is writing. Emails, stories, reports, Slack, wiki... the list goes on. We write a lot. But do we read enough? Do we read to understand or just to reply? Often I caught myself scanning a message for any action points or questions towards me. Unsurprisingly, often this results in further messages or leads to misunderstandings. Best product teams cultivate both writing and reading. They write explicitly and read thoroughly.

Demo, demo, demo

Often it's easier to show rather than tell. When you share your work regularly within a product team  - it increases the understanding and facilitates feedback loops. Some exceptionally successful companies made frequent demos their secret recipe for success. You can demo not only an actual product but a prototype, wireframe or a simple sketch. Whatever you can show and get feedback on - will help you to make your product better.

Diverse team + sharing experiences = higher chances of product success

If you need to innovate, create novel products or radically improve existing ones - you need a diverse product team. Having a mix of cultures, backgrounds and interests on your team greatly increase your chances to come up with game-changing ideas. To build a diverse product team you need to pay special attention to your recruitment process. You need to prioritise diversity in your HR processes. Having a diverse team is a great start but such a team needs to have opportunities to share their experiences with each other and the rest of the organization. By creating an environment for regular information exchanges you set your product team for success.

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